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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

Bosnia & Herzegovina - Body Kintsugi

Body Kintsugi, by Senka Marić (translated by Celia Hawkesworth)

Originally published 2022

Literary Fiction

Setting: Bosnia & Herzegovina

[CWs: medical content, cancer, death]

Kintsugi - "golden joinery". The Japanese art of mending broken pottery with gold, emphasising the break as something beautiful and reflective of the object's history, rather than something to be hidden.

In this phenomenal work of auto-fiction - a fictional health memoir drawing heavily on the author's own experience with breast cancer - 'kintsugi' is a powerful metaphor for the painstaking process of self-repair, fusing the scattered pieces back together and attempting to make anew after the physical and psychological damage of a life-altering illness.

Reading this is an intensely raw experience, an unfiltered window into every aspect of cancer, made all the more intimate by the use of the second person narration. With one in two people now diagnosed with cancer in their life time, it is pretty much a given that everyone has been touched by this illness in some way. But, the window we often view cancer through is still tinted: a shield constructed to maintain an image of the 'right way' to be sick - put on a brave face, be positive through the pain and make a show of 'putting up a fight'. In Body Kintsugi, these layers of defence are peeled back one by one. At the core are the very human truths: pain hurts, death is scary, and to experience ones' body change irrevocably can feel like parts of the self have been ripped away.

This is by far one of the best, but also most challenging books I have ever read. It winded me, it moved me to tears. At times I wanted to put the book down to give myself an emotional break, but I kept pushing on in the hope of the light at the end - the kintsugi process and the rejoining of the fragments as the author builds themselves back up. Both the writing and the translation is a true masterpiece, both beautiful and brutal.

'You don't dare open your eyes or move your body, frightened of the fluidity of your possible metamorphoses. You've been worn out by the days in which you won't let go. You hold on to yourself firmly. 'This is me and nothing will change me!' you yell. The nausea is too much. Your empty stomach protrudes bloated, bumpy, like over-leavened dough, while your fingers slide over your bald head. You're beginning to doubt.'


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